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500 words on… Critical Thinking – The heart of Agile Execution

By Nigel Robinson

The French Grand Prix this year produced an excellent example of agility and how this increasingly important business capability can accelerate performance and deliver competitive advantage. For those of you who do not follow the sport, Formula 1 (F1) is a highly competitive global racing series that is increasingly predicated on leveraging technology and data to enable the best drivers in the world to win races. 

I remember being invited to the practice day for the Montreal Grand Prix a few years back (thanks @Heineken) and after the racing was done for the day got to hear Christian Horner (Team principal of Red Bull Racing) being interviewed by the media. “How did the practice go?” was the initial question. I was expecting to hear an answer focused on the driver, the tires, the engine but instead Christian responded that the team had one Teraflop of data that would be sent to the Red Bull Racing HQ in England overnight and that they would receive insights back the following morning. I remember being blown away by this – not only was the word “teraflop” a new term for me, but the idea that this data and the insights derived from it was as important as the driver in regard to gaining competitive advantage.

Of course, the same is increasingly true in the realm of business, with data and insights powering decisions at all levels. One of the key skills we work with leaders on is how to harness these capabilities through team-led, fact-based, insight driven decision making. This is a mission-critical skill for leaders in this moment, harnessing the collective intelligence of teams, fueled by relevant data to rapidly make decisions that will drive improved performance.

So, what happened at the French Grand Prix? Well, all teams were operating on a one pit-stop strategy – meaning they would stop just once to refuel and take on new tires. Red Bull (Max Verstappen) and Mercedes (Lewis Hamilton) were duking it out at the front of the pack with Verstappen leading but with rapidly diminishing tire quality due to intense competition with Hamilton. Both teams had already made their planned pit-stop. It was then that the strategist on the Red Bull team presented an alternative option to Christian Horner (yup same guy as above) that they should switch to a two pit-stop strategy. They would be forced to relinquish the lead but with fresh tires would be able to reel in the Mercedes car over the final laps of the race. It was a very bold move that involved considerable risk, but one based on insights and understanding of the operating environment and a knowledge that the entire team could rapidly pivot to seize the opportunity.

Horner made the decision and brought Verstappen in for his second pit stop. What then played out was a fascinating sporting drama as the rejuvenated Red Bull car steadily ate into the Mercedes lead, and on the penultimate lap, delivered the coup de grâce, overtaking and receiving the checkered flag.

I hope you enjoyed this example of agility in action. If you would like to hear more about how Perpetual supports leaders in this area, please reach out – we would love to explain more.